FriendshipTag Archives

Make It Stay by Joan Frank

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Reason for Reading:
  • The summary caught my eye.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

In the tree-nestled Northern California town of Mira Flores, writer Rachel (“an aging typist with an unprofitable hobby”) and her Scottish husband Neil prepare dinner for a familiar “crew” of guests – among them Neil’s best friend, the burly, handsome Mike Spender, an irrepressible heodnist – and Mike’s wife Tilda Krall, a hard-bitten figure who carries her dark unknowability like an accusation.

Mike and Tilda have produced an enchanting daughter, Addie – who will also appear, unexpectedly, that night. As they ready the meal, Rae begs Neil to retell her the strange, twisted story of the Spenders – to include Mike’s secret life, and what happened once Tilda learned of it. Neil and Rae cannot guess how the shock waves from that story will threaten to destroy their own marriage – after a mysterious catastrophe propels all five individuals into uncharted realities.

Recounting three love stories, Make It Stay explores the vision of an era – and how perception expands, as mortal limits draw near.

My Review:

Make It Stay is a short, compact tale told through the recounting of stories between a husband and a wife.

Neil and Rachel are married – they met later in life than is the “norm”, and Neil comes with the “baggage” of friendship in the form of Mike and Tilda.

Mike is a larger than life character – vibrant, colorful, filled with character. The reader is introduced to him through Neil’s eyes, as the story between Mike and Tilda is told to Rachel.

So not only does Mike and Tilda’s relationship tie in to Neil and Rachel’s, then there is the addition of Addie (Mike and Tilda’s daughter) and her husband.

I found the description of this book to be somewhat misleading. I went into it expecting a sort of around the table story-telling session, but instead got a bit of a hokey retelling in the form of a story within a story (it’s hard to put into words, just felt a bit like a gimmick). The summary also promises three romance stories – but Addie’s was hardly present, and the two characters in that relationship were flat and one-dimensional.

The characters of Mike, Tilda and Rachel really carry the story. Even Neil I found to be a bit predictable and boring – but the story is worth reading just for those main three characters. It gave me quite a bit to think about – about friendship, legacies left behind, and the fleeting span of life.


About the Author

  • Information regarding Joan Frank:

For more reviews on Make It Stay by Joan Frank, please follow the book tour.

 

 

The Odd Job Squad by Karl Fields

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Reason for Reading:
  • I received this title as a pitch from the author and thought it might be one my nephew would enjoy.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

The best way to get even is to get Odd… Thirteen-year-old Ander Cartwright is an expert on two subjects: fortune cookies and payback. Especially payback. When he’s not struggling with algebra, Ander leads an anonymous revenge club that operates within the walls of Marina Middle School. Got a beef with a classmate? Email Ander’s crew and, if your case if legit, they’ll get even on your behalf. It’s not easy to right wrongs and fly under the radar at the same time. That’s why Ander developed three simple rules designed to help him and his friends stay incognito. But when Ander spots the opportunity to settle a score of his own, he ignores the rules, setting off a chain of events that threatens to blow his cover, and it’ll take all the butt-kicking, detention-dodging skill the guys can muster to keep a lid on their secret.

My Review:

Okay, this was a cute book.  I was homeschooled, so I don’t have memories of bullying or being picked on (although I was picked on a little bit by other means), but if I had the types of memories most people seem to have – then I would have loved to have an Odd Job Squad firmly on my side.

Karl Fields reaches out through middle-grade humor to teach a subtle lesson.  Through the pranks and hijinks of the Odd Job Squad, he highlights the feelings and emotions that are cascading through the bodies of all middle-graders- the need to be accepted, to be who they are and more. And while some of the pranks are absolutely hilarious (fish eyes, I’m looking at you), I was actually more touched by the friendship bonds being displayed.

The Odd Job Squad is a great middle-age book, especially if you are looking for that book to get a boy interested in reading.  It’s funny, smart and teaches a good lesson without being preachy.

 

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Ink Scratchers

The Diary of a Bookworm

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

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Reason for Reading:
  • The summary, plus I’ve been on a good run with male contemporary authors lately.

I recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Jean Vale Horemarsh is an ordinary, small-town woman with the usual challenges of middle age. She’s content, mostly, with the life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (if you ignore the terrible falling out she had with Cheryl all those years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if otherwise unextraordinary man. And then Jean sees her mother go through the final devastating months of cancer, and realizes that her fondest wish is to protect her dearest friends from the indignities of aging and illness. That’s when she decides to kill them . . .

My Review:

I really, really, really wanted to love this book.  I’ve been on such a good run, and recently read a book (Fathermucker by Greg Olear) that had me in stitches.  It wasn’t until fairly recently that I started to really get into the harder edge of comedy that these types of books offer, so I, like I said earlier, I really wanted to like this one.

But I didn’t.

This is why:

Jean is not a likeable character.  She seems to break(? I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, but it most describes what I felt about it) after her mothers death and rather then finding a dark humor in the story, I just felt incredible pity and a lot of anxiety.  I didn’t want Jean to get caught, but I didn’t agree with her actions either – or understand them fully, really.

I think the breaking point though, the moment I really just fell off the wagon and admitted to myself that I just didn’t get it, was during a pivotal moment in the book.  I don’t want to say too much, but Jean basically takes away all climax to the story with a single speech. It felt.. contrived and out of character for her – not to mention the rest of the story seeming just too convenient.

I think I understand what Cole was attempting to do with the story, I just don’t feel there was enough of Jean to really like, or dislike.  I felt pity, yes, but she isn’t a character that will stick with me.  She seemed somewhat.. bland, like an unseasoned bowl of oatmeal.

About the Author


For more reviews on Practical Jean by Trevor Cole, please follow the book tour.

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • I’ve seen this title around the blogosphere and wanted to give it a shot.

Summary from Goodreads:

When Frances accepts an invitation to visit Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in Biscayne Bay, she has no idea that her simple ”yes” to a new friend will determine the course of her life for the next two dozen years. Set in Miami from the late ’60s to the 1990s, Stiltsville is a sweeping journey seen through the eyes of one woman as she experiences love, motherhood, friendship, hurricanes, racial tension, and finally, a tragic death in slow motion. In her debut novel, Daniel describes the experiences of three generations in one family whose spiritual heart is centered in a modest bungalow built a few feet above the water.When Frances meets and marries Dennis, she learns to live her life on the water, from bay to ocean to everglade to bayou. She navigates through it all — infidelity, empty-nest syndrome, and debilitating illness — sometimes with grace and humor, sometimes with anger and bitterness, but always with the same people by her side.

 

My Review:

I love being surprised by a book.  When I first cracked open Stiltsville and read the opening chapter, I formed an opinion of the book and was a little hesitant to move forward.  The actions by the key character touched close to home for me and I didn’t know if this was a book I’d be able to get into, let alone give a fair shot.

But then I kept reading, because I needed to know more.  I needed to know why people were still talking about this book.  Plus, there was something about Frances and her friend Marse that hooked me.

So while I expected a book that would deal with a broken friendship, what I got was a look at everlasting friendship, a look at marriage that survives despite disappointing jobs, loss of children, debilitating disease, infidelity and more.  In short, in Stiltsville I got a dose of really hard reality told in the most gentle way possible.

Sometimes, books that deal with these heavier issues can seem a little “fairy-tale like”.  Things magically go right, the right events happen, the story is manipulated by the author to give the reader a sense of closure.  Susanna Daniel managed to give me that sense of closure without any of the fairy-tale nonsense.  Not only that, but she dabbled in things that had me dreading turning the page, but she didn’t go there – because she didn’t need to.  Just the touch, the very idea that a wrong choice might be made was enough to shock me into realizing just how precarious life can be and how fragile relationships are if not treated correctly.

While this isn’t a light summer read, the setting of Miami, the descriptions of the water, the house on stilts – all these add up to a read that will make you think, but still give you that summertime feeling.  Look Stiltsville up if you are wanting a break from fluff.

About the Author

 

For more reviews on Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel, please follow the book tour.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan

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Reason for Reading:
  • I decided to read this due to the cover.  Because I have a weakness for ballerinas.

I  recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.

And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa’s own equilibrium is shaken.

With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

My Review:

I’m going to flat out warn you right now – I did not like this book.  If you have plans to read it, if you dislike reading negative reviews, if you read the book and loved it and would prefer not to read criticism of the book, this would be the point you should stop reading this review.

I don’t like writing negative reviews.  I prefer to pull what I did like out of each book I read and focus on that, with maybe a paragraph or so where I talk about why I didn’t rate the book higher, or what I would have liked to see more of.  Unfortunately, I can’t pull anything positive out of this book – because what it felt to me was that I was reading juvenile prose mixed with a series of Public Service Announcements dealing with issues like bullying, maintaining healthy friendships, eating right, exercising, etc.

I found the dialogue between characters to be flat and just.. boring, I mean – had I been friends with Marissa I don’t know what I would have done to stay awake while she speaks.  The strange little love triangle in this book between creepy, stalker ex (who randomly shows up outside her business in NY after over a decade?) and nice_guy_01 current boyfriend, was dull and lifeless.

I think the most emotion this book invoked in me was a reaction to an opening scene in the book, and it was all downhill from there.

I saw a review that compared The Art of Forgetting to Mean Girls – and while I can see some resemblences, the biggest one is that I didn’t finish that movie and I was highly tempted not to finish this book either.  I just plain didn’t care about Marissa, about Julia, about any of the characters in the book.

Take this review as just the honest opinion of one reader, and do your research if you plan to spend time reading this one.  I’d highly recommend reading a chapter, if a sample is given to you, before making your final decision though.  If you can handle the writing, then it may work for you.

Check out these review(s):

Book’d Out

Bewitched Bookworms

 

Cheap Cabernet by Cathie Beck

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • I won this title from LibraryThing first reads and decided to give it a shot.
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

I didn’t know that people come into our lives, and sometimes, if we’re terribly lucky, we get the chance to love them, that sometimes they stay, that sometimes you can, truly, depend on them. Cathie Beck was in her late thirties and finally able to exhale after a lifetime of just trying to get by. A teenage mother harboring vivid memories of her own hardscrabble childhood, Cathie had spent years doing whatever it took to give her children the stability–or at least the illusion of it–that she’d never had. More than that, through sheer will and determination, she had educated them and herself too. With her kids in college, Cathie was at last ready to have some fun. The only problem was that she had no idea how to do it and no friends to do it with. So she put an ad in the paper for a made-up women’s group: WOW . . . Women on the Way. Eight women showed up that first night, and out of that group a friendship formed, one of those meteoric, passionate, stand-by-you friendships that come around once in a lifetime and change you forever . . . if you’re lucky.

My Review:

It’s not often I finish a memoir and think, “My goodness, this would make an interesting book club read”.  But Cheap Cabernet brought that thought immediately to the forefront more than once as I read through Cathie Beck’s story.

As a 39 year old woman, Cathie has two grown children and an empty home.  She’s lonely and she needs friends – so she does what most women would never even consider doing, she starts a woman’s club with eight strangers.  And one of those strangers is Denise.

To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this memoir.  I knew I needed to read it and review it and was, in a way, sort of dreading it because I figured it was going to be another “pity me my life sucks” story.  It had all the ingredients, teenage mother, skipped-out husband, friend with MS, horrible family life growing up – yup, all there.  But still Cathie manages to be upbeat, to learn from Denise, to explore and challenge fear more than once.  Basically, Cathie made memories of life with Denise – at a time when Denise was losing her life.

I did not once get a “pity me” feeling from this book.  The hard things were talked about matter-of-factly, the good times were talked about much the same.  There are lots of fun stories, scary stories and heart-breaking stories of memories shared by Denise and Cathie.

Mostly though – I think this book does what it’s labeled to do.  It talks about a friendship, a special friendship.  And man, it would make a good book club discussion book.

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